Disgusting

Irish authorities snatched a girl away from her parents to perform DNA tests. Why? Because she didn’t look enough like them, and they were Roma. Meanwhile, an article in the NY Times actually asked, “Are the Roma Primitive or Just Poor?” A group of academics, including philosophers, has written an open letter in protest at the latter.

The title pretends to present two sides of a legitimate debate, when in fact the first horn of the dichotomy, as stated, has no place at all in civil discussion, in Europe or America. Failing entirely to consider the matter in a critical and historical framework, the article delivers what the title promises, making it appear acceptable to debate as a serious issue whether Roma culture will effectively be a plague on Europe until this culture is renounced by its members through assimilation.

Words fail me.

8 thoughts on “Disgusting

  1. I don’t have much to say here except I am British Roma,(Romanichal) and the ignorance and destructive behaviour of gadje (non-Roma) is an expected feature of the Roma experience. My parents wanted me to be educated in gadje school, but it was a fearful experience for them. It invited a powerful and potentially (usually) malevolent mainstream culture into their lives. I had/have blonde hair and blue eyes too! But, coupled with the reluctance of teachers to teach us (why waste the effort?) it’s little wonder so many of my cousins felt it better and safer to withdraw from such interaction.

    So, it’s good to see so many people react to this and name it as the appalling thing it is, but for Roma, it’s nothing new. Lots of friends have asked me what I think about these cases, but my interest is in why it is only now they are reporting it. Gadjes have been stealing Roma children for centuries.

  2. I think media have had a disconcerting behaviour in telling this matter since the previous greek case happened. In Italy we have so many intolerance against roma people as much as we are uninformed and disorganized in managing social problems. Journalists should know how people are ignorant and impressionable and how much telling a news in a certain way can be dangerous. Sad.

  3. Albert: If fb is any guide, lots of people are only now learning about all of this. Can you direct us to a website with fuller information on discrimination against and abuse of Roma people?

  4. Jender, I’m thinking, “they can’t be reading British murder mysteries”. Roma people probably aren’t that frequently portrayed, but they appear enough as the misleading suspect. They are immediately presented as suspicious.

    Wasn’t Carmen a Roma, by the way?

  5. As a five-year-old, I was asked, if I was related to my mother. My mother has fair skin and green eyes, whereas my father has very dark brown hair and brown eyes. Because my mother is considered “white” by Americans, she has been asked many times whether I was a friend’s child.

    It is appalling for the Roma, and so many of us who suffer at the hands of people who don’t understand genetics and yet have the power to remove a child from her home.

  6. Thanks Monkey – that is certainly a good source of information on the Roma situation in Europe. I’ve probably put too much here (I’ve tried to put some positive stuff in too, especially on roma women) but here goes:

    If you want some really-not-too-bad guidance to both the history and contemporary state of anti-Roma persecution, the Wikipedia article on anti-ziganism is a reasonably good source.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiziganism

    you will need to click out to another page if you want to read about the Porajmos – the Roma experience of the Nazi holocaust.

    For some particular cases of prejudice (I’ll give you statistics below) you can look at:

    this case about the young Djeordsevic sisters’ drowning in Italy – (their bodies were left on the beach ignored by local beach-goers who continued to swim, play and eat)

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/17/familyandrelationships.roma

    Or the case of the World War II Roma Concentration in Lety, Czechoslovakia which, despite campaigns and protests from Romani Councils and activists was turned in to and remains a pig farm.

    http://www.romea.cz/en/news/czech/romani-activists-tell-czech-tv-the-pig-farm-at-lety-must-go

    Or the death of Jonny Delaney, a 15year Irish Traveller, in Liverpool. Stamped to death for being “a fucking gypsy” but the courts found no evidence of a racial motivation. As the Gypsy Roma Traveller Leeds article below notes, striking parallels to the Stephen Lawrence case from twenty years ago.

    http://www.grtleeds.co.uk/information/delaney.html

    If you are interested in a broad body of work reporting and campaigning for Roma rights, Amnesty have a good on-going project.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/roma

    Well worth checking out are the various reports (found under the “report” tab at the bottom of the page) where you will find case studies showing facts about Roma life expectancy (around 15 years shorter than Gadje counterparts); and education – 85% Roma children in Slovakia are segregated from mainstream education and taught as having “special needs”, over 10,000 are assessed by educators as “mentally disabled”. There’s more: institutional child abduction, forced evictions, rape, murder, lack of justice. It’s all here.

    If you want a summary though, Amnesty has a nice 20-page report on the state of the Roma in Europe country-by-country with some compelling case studies at the end (it links to a PDF)

    Click to access eur010082012en.pdf

    A BBC article here summarises the findings of that report too

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17606004

    There is so much more out there if you want to find it, but to be completely honest, it is so easy to find out about the experience of Roma groups and the horrid horrid prejudice, violence and injustice faced daily across Europe. Without diminishing any of this work on the treatment of Roma in Europe – its important to document the inequalities and make it known – I want to put some links up here so people can see some more positive things too.

    Here is the Gypsy Roma Traveller Leeds website:

    http://www.grtleeds.co.uk/index.html

    They are trying to raise awareness, but they are celebrating GRT achievements in school and the arts, providing resources for Gypsy Roma Traveller History month etc. It’s valuable and positive. (A similar project runs in Ireland called “Pavee Point”).

    And three projects that are closely related –

    The Romedia Foundation, which is focused on using new media to educate and emancipate the Roma in Europe.

    http://www.romediafoundation.org/aboutus

    The group is co-directed by the hugely impressive Katalin Barsony, a Romani women who is very focused on enabling Roma women to be the locus of change.

    Two projects related to the Romedia foundation are key to this:

    http://www.romawoman.org

    and

    http://mundiromani.com

    The later provides lots of video documentary about the Roma experience. The videos there chart the many negative and positive aspects of being Roma. “Faces of Change” may be of particular interest – it interviews ten Roma women around Europe (http://mundiromani.com/videos/?video%5Bvideo%5D%5Bitem%5D=30)
    There is a lot more positive stuff out there, but these things are a good start. And if you’re interested in Katalin Barsony, the woman who plays a big part in these last three projects, there is a bit of a Unesco write up here (links to a pdf):

    (http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/wmn/Romedia%20Foundation%202.pdf)

    Hope I haven’t overdone it with links!

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